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Collection Number: 04006

Collection Title: Joan Little trial materials collection, 1975-1976

This collection has access restrictions. For details, please see the restrictions.

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 90 items)
Abstract Transcripts of testimony, briefs, clippings, taped interviews conducted by James Reston, and other materials relating to the trial of Joan Little, a black prisoner who was accused and acquitted of murder in the death of a white male jailer in Washington, N.C., in 1975. Reston used these materials to write "The Innocence of Joan Little" (1977). Interviewees include Golden Frinks, civil rights activist; Joan Little; Jerry Paul, defense attorney; Richard Wolf, an astrologer who helped the defense in jury selection; and three North Carolina women prisoners.
Creator Reston, James, 1941-
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. [See Sound and Image Librarian for access to tapes.]
This collection contains additional materials that are not processed and are currently not available to researchers. For information about access to these materials, contact Research and Instructional Services staff. Please be advised that preparing unprocessed materials for access can be a lengthy process.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Joan Little trial materials collection #4006, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased from James Reston, of Hillsborough, North Carolina, in February 1976.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

On 27 August 1974, the half naked body of Clarence Alligood was found in the Beaufort County Jail in Washington, North Carolina. The white jailer had been stabbed to death with an ice-pick, and his twenty-one year old black female prisoner, Joan Little, was gone. Little surrendered to North Carolina authorities over a week later insisting that she had acted in self-defense against a sexual assault. She was charged with first degree murder, which carried an automatic death sentence if convicted under contemporary North Carolina law.

The Joan Little murder trial captured national attention and made the defendant a symbol for feminists, civil rights activists, and opponents of capital punishment. Using highly sophisticated fundraising techniques, the Joan Little Defense Committee raised over $350,000 nationally and around the world for her defense. On 14 August 1975, she was acquitted.

James Reston was a faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who collected information during the trial for a book exploring the case. For further information see James Reston, The Innocence of Joan Little: A Southern Mystery (New York Times Books, 1977).

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This collection documents the Joan Little murder trial through transcripts of testimony, trial briefs, lawyers' arguments, and newspaper clippings. Recorded interviews conducted by Reston with major figures in the case provide further information not admitted in the trial itself. Reston used these materials to write his book exploring the varied perspectives of significant participants in the trial.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Trial Transcripts, 1975.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Clippings and Other Papers, 1975.

About 50 items.

Chiefly clippings about the trial taken from North Carolina newspapers. This series also includes press releases and a script for a video presentation, "The Joan Little Story," produced by James Reston.

Folder 14-16

Folder 14

Folder 15

Folder 16

Clippings and other papers, 1975 #04006, Series: "2. Clippings and Other Papers, 1975." Folder 14-16

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976.

22 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical.

Cassette tapes of interviews conducted by James Reston with significant participants in the Joan Little trial. Reston's book, The Innocence of Joan Little, contains chapters on many of the individuals heard on these tapes. The sound quality on some cassettes is poor.

Audiotape T-4006/1-2

T-4006/1

T-4006/2

Celine Chenier, civil rights worker and member of the Joan Little Defense Committee. See also Tape 14. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/1-2

Audiotape T-4006/3

Jacquatta Davis, female inmate at the Women's Prison in Raleigh and Marie Hill, death row inmate there. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/3

Audiotape T-4006/4-5

T-4006/4

T-4006/5

Golden Frinks, civil rights activist and member of the Joan Little Defense Committee. See Also Tape 21. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/4-5

Audiotape T-4006/6-9

T-4006/6

T-4006/7

T-4006/8

T-4006/9

William Griffin, prosecutor. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/6-9

Audiotape T-4006/10

Joan Little, accused of murdering her white jailor, Clarence Alligood. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/10

Audiotape T-4006/11-12

T-4006/11

T-4006/12

Henry McKinnon, judge who ruled for change of venue from Beaufort to Wake County. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/11-12

Audiotape T-4006/13

Courtney Mullin, social psychologist who helped defense team argue successfully for change of venue. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/13

Audiotape T-4006/14-16

T-4006/14

T-4006/15

T-4006/16

Jerry Paul, defense attorney. See also Tape 10 #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/14-16

Audiotape T-4006/17

Willis Peachey, deputy sheriff of Beaufort County and chief investigative officer on morning of the crime. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/17

Audiotape T-4006/18

Louis Randolph, fundraiser for Joan Little Defense Fund. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/18

Audiotape T-4006/19-20

T-4006/19

T-4006/20

John Wilkinson, prosecutor. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/19-20

Audiotape T-4006/21

Richard Wolf, psychic and astrologer who assisted defense in jury selection and as mediator on defense team. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/21

Audiotape T-4006/22

Marjorie Wright, helped Joan Little escape Beaufort County. #04006, Series: "3. Recorded Interviews, 1975-1976. " T-4006/22

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Processing Information

Processed by: Lisa Tolbert, December 1989

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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